In his little book on repentance, Jack Miller distinguishes between two kinds of sins: “branch sins” and “root sins.”
The easier part of repentance is identifying and turning from the out-there-for-everyone-to-see branch sins in our lives. The harder part is identifying and turning from the root sins that give life to the branch sins, but are less obvious to others and ourselves.
My mind immediately goes to James 4:1-2, where James basically asks, “Do you want to know why you are always angry and willing to duke it out all the time (branch sins)?” His answer points to the root sin of self-worship, bowing to ourselves and serving our wants: “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2).
Tree roots are a pain to dig out. They’re stubborn and always more widespread than you anticipate. But there’s a twofold beauty in spending time focusing on root sins in the heart: 1. Killing the root sucks life out of the branches 2. Root removal creates fresh space for God to come in and fill with his grace and presence.
Can you think of any root sins God might be nudging you to investigate?